Despite George Floyd police violence in the US has not

Despite George Floyd, police violence in the US has not eased

Shocked by the death of Tire Nichols, America has reopened the debate over police brutality, feeling that the mass demonstrations of 2020 have not solved the problem.

• Also read: Inside Memphis anger and outrage after broadcast of arrest of Tire Nichols

• Also read: America shocked by video of Tire Nichols’ fatal arrest

• Also read: Tire Nichols’ death commemorates Rodney King’s violent arrest

The 29-year-old African American man died in hospital three days after being beaten to death by black Memphis police officers who have since been charged with murder.

Despite George Floyd, police violence in the US has not eased

“It’s sad that we’re still here in America, I can’t believe it,” told CNN Lora King, daughter of Rodney King, whose police beatings ignited Los Angeles in 1991.

“We have to do better, that’s unacceptable.”

Despite George Floyd, police violence in the US has not eased

The murder of the African American George Floyd, who was choked to death under the knee of a white police officer, nevertheless triggered a historic mobilization in spring 2020 and, under pressure from the streets, promises of reform blossomed in all states.

Two years later, the number of people who died in interactions with police still broke a record, with 1,186 deaths for 2022, the highest in a decade, according to the Mapping Police Violence site. Among them were 26% of African Americans, while they make up only 13% of the population.

Despite George Floyd, police violence in the US has not eased

By way of comparison, in France less than 20 people die in police operations every year, a difference linked in particular to the large amount of firearms in circulation, which increases the feeling of insecurity among American police officers and prompts them to draw their own gun more quickly . In fact, 66 officers were shot while on duty last year, according to the fund set up to commemorate them.

But for attorney Ben Crump, who represented George Floyd’s family and now supports Tire Nichols’ family, there is also “an institutionalized culture within the police force that tolerates excessive use of force, particularly against minorities.”

“We have to have this (discussion) over and over and over again until it stops,” he told a conference on Friday.

“Useless and aggressive”

Promises for 2020 included plans to address the broad immunity of police officers across the United States or create a registry of officers who have used excessive force.

However, a federal law originally supported by both parties failed in Congress amid a sharp spike in homicides that prompted Republicans to retreat to their classic “law and order” rhetoric.

In the absence of federal progress, the debate continued locally, in small steps and in great cacophony.

In fact, there are nearly 18,000 autonomous police units (city police, county sheriffs, state patrols, etc.) in the United States that have their own rules for recruitment, training, and authorized practices.

Some of them have revised their intervention rules, notably the ban on strangulation, the general use of onboard cameras or the increased penalties for violent officers.

The Memphis Police Department has banned officers from entering homes without registering, insisted on their “duty to intervene” in the face of violent coworkers, and reviewed their training in de-escalation techniques.

“However, officers directly increased the tension” when they attempted to arrest Tire Nichols for a simple traffic violation, admitted local police chief Cerelyn Davis.

For activists, the heart of the problem is that American police have sweeping powers of arrest, even for minor offenses.

“We need to stop relying on the police to deal with issues related to poverty or underinvestment in certain neighborhoods,” said Kathy Sinback, director of the local branch of the powerful civil rights organization ACLU. “This leads to more frequent, unnecessary and aggressive actions.”

US police have killed nearly 600 people at roadside stops since 2017, according to Human Rights Watch.